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Lyons battles to fourth place finish at Whitlatch

Villarreal leads way with third place medal


By Ed Muniz

HINSDALE -- The wrestle-til-the-whistle team from LaGrange, coach Griff Powell’s Lyons squad, backed up their much-deserved Class 3A top 10 state ranking with a fourth place finish in one of Illinois top high school wrestling tournaments -- the 49th Annual Rex Whitlatch Wrestling Invitational at Hinsdale Central High School.
The Lions battled with some of the best teams in the state. Oak Park and River Forest scored 294 points to take home the title. Sandburg (243) and Montini (208) followed.
Seven Lyons wrestlers garnered most of the teams’ points -- all finished in the top eight spots and scored when points were needed the most. Lyons didn’t have a finalist but did have four who battled for a third place spot.
The Lions sole third place finisher was state-ranked Zach Villarreal (16-3). Illinois' eighth-ranked Class 3A wrestler at 126 dropped down to 120 for the Whitlatch.
The sophomore’s lone loss in the tournament was to second-ranked Alex Madrigal, of Oak Park and River Forest, who captured the weight class.
“I was at 126 but felt smaller there, so ... at 120 I feel a lot stronger,” said Villarreal. “I think wrestling on my feet from bottom and working my tilts and turns really worked well for me this whole tournament. When I wrestle I don’t think I am very aggressive, but I do feel on my feet is where I am at my best. I'm very comfortable at this weight.”
Villarreal added: “I want to improve from the bottom and getting away and also being able to ride someone. I guess I just have to work more in the practice room.”
Coach Powell was even more pleased with the effort of his other sophomore standout, Tyler Zeman. The 132-pounder finished fifth but en route outduelled 2014 state meet sixth place finisher and Whitlatch sixth place finisher Juan Blanco, of Brother Rice.
“I thought I did pretty well but I also think I could be a lot better,” said Zeman. “I need to practice getting in better position, but I thought I did really good on top and was aggressive.”
When asked about the teams’ performance and finishing fourth in a very tough tournament, Zeman (19-4) said: “Our coaching staff is great, a lot of these guys used to wrestle at LT and come back to help coach and that makes a big difference for us. As a team we've come together, and I think it showed this tournament.”
When you watch the way Lyons wrestles, one immediately notices that this team doesn’t quit no matter the score. Whether up by a dozen or down by the same, there is no wait-and-see on the mat. This is a group of wrestlers that won’t submit.
Coach Powell has a good mixture of youth and experience on his squad and with nationally-ranked Oak Park and River Forest in their conference, they will be challenged by top-level competition.
Lyons was well represented on the podium at the Whitlatch. Besides Villarreal (highest placer) and Zeman, Lyons had three fourth place medalists.
Sophomore Elias Garcia (13-6) battled at 113 and ended his tournament with a 5-1 loss in the third place match. Junior Frank Walsh (14-7) fell short in his bid for third at 195, and senior Johnny Howorth (13-5) went into overtime but lost 3-1.
Two other Lyons wrestlers medalled  at the Whitlatch. Senior Nick Spacek (15-7) took home sixth place at 160 and classmate Jack Hollinger (8-8) finished eigth.
Look for this mixture of matmen to continue improving as the season moves along.
Today's Schedule: Season Schedule